Self-employed workers worldwide are currently facing the crisis of their lifetimes. You might be frightened, angry, depressed – feeling any number of negative emotions daily, and you will almost certainly feel overwhelmed.

It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. Sisu can help.

With over 32.6 million self-employed in the EU, the coronavirus is the biggest threat we’ve seen in this lifetime to both our health care systems and our economy. Organisations and individuals around the world are pushing for reform in government aid. And in many countries, the response is encouraging!

Now is the time for self-employed workers and representing bodies to come together in spirit and online. It’s important we unite to stay motivated and optimistic, while following the important guidelines needed to flatten the curve.

One way of finding strength in these challenging times is to understand and embody the Finnish philosophy of sisu. Holvi is based in Helsinki, and as a Finnish company we want to share our ways with you!

We think sisu can help.

What is sisu?

If you asked a thousand Finns what the word ‘sisu’ means, you would probably get a thousand different answers. As a psychological trait, sisu is so ingrained in the Finnish population that few Finns today pay it conscious attention. It’s just there – a deep-rooted mixture of extraordinary perseverance, action mindset and latent power that appears like magic during harder-than-normal challenges.

The word itself has no direct English equivalent – and so it’s tricky to pin down. It derives from the Finnish root word sisus, meaning ‘inner’ or ‘inside’. 

Sisu is a power that comes from within. 

Sisu is an age-old concept that roughly translates to a mindset of bravery, resilience, stoicism, perseverance and determination in the face of adversity. As one article puts it, sisu is ‘a key psychological competence that enables extraordinary action to overcome a physically or mentally challenging situation.’

The term can be likened to the British idea of ‘fire in the belly’ – and yet it’s much more than that. Sisu has an added dimension of acting nobly in the face of hardship, calmly embodying honesty, integrity and humility to overcome challenges with grace.

Picture yourself in a wintry forest at night. It’s getting colder and darker, and yet you keep trekking forwards trusting that you will soon see a light.

In this metaphor, the light is trusting that your business will make it through despite the financial uncertainty.

Building on this idea of positive psychology is Emilia Lahti, a leading researcher and social activist who has devoted her life to promoting the world's understanding of this powerful concept. And while in 2020 she published the first peer-reviewed study on the Finnish way of life, maybe a poetic definition is more instantly relatable. On her website, Lahti defines sisu as: 

‘Extraordinary courage and determination in the face of adversity. It’s about not seeing a silver lining in the clouds, and yet jumping into the storm anyways. At the core of sisu is the idea that in each of us there is more strength than meets the eye.’ – Emilia Lahti

Note: Everyone has their limits

While you’re stronger than you think and sisu can help – after all, Finland is still the world’s happiest country – in some situations it may not be enough. Sisu is a positive psychology meant to promote mental well-being and is not a replacement for medical support.


Find your sisu

A 2013 study of 1,060 Finns showed that while 53% of respondents believed some people innately have more sisu, a vast majority of 83% thought sisu was a flexible quality that can be cultivated through active practice.

You can cultivate sisu.

Sisu is an action mindset. To find it, you need to actively push your limits by choosing to do something outside your comfort zone, beyond your observed capabilities. Sisu is a final, empowering push into the unknown.

When it comes to running a small business during the corona crisis, like the word sisu itself, this will mean something different for everyone. It might mean simply accepting the situation for what it is, something beyond your control. Maybe the ‘push’ now comes from outside, and sisu is how you choose to act with it

Today, sisu is persevering with vital optimism throughout the most challenging days your business is facing. It's actively striving to adjust business plans – and possibly life plans – and powering your days with inner reserves of untapped strength. 

Look within and find your sisu.

What other help is available?

Sisu is a way of life to actively transform challenges into opportunities and become our best selves. It doesn’t apply just when times are hard, but always. 

In these days of self-isolation, inner strength is paramount. But it’s just as important to stay socially connected. This will help drive you and your business forward – out of the darkness and into the light.

At Holvi, we’re doing all we can to promote our users’ businesses and offer support. In our efforts to help, we’re continuously monitoring developments and acting in accordance with the most up-to-date guidance from global health authorities. We’ve also established a crisis team and contingency plan to minimise disruption and continue offering support.

Holvi has also put together a coronavirus information hub to offer extra information and support.

And remember, if you’re struggling during these challenging times:

You're stronger than you think.

Further readings on the Finnish mindset of sisu:

Vogue UK – Interview with Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin

Joanna Nylund – Sisu: The Finnish Art of Courage

Emilia Lahti – Sisu Lab